There is a long and gory history of the zombie genre in the print universe. From novels to comic books and everything in between the written word has allowed the scope of an Earth overrun by the living dead to be opened in an infinite number of directions. In this section I am going to hit the highlights and works that have been an influence on me as a creator.
This will be by no means a comprehensive listing of all things zombie in print. I could likely write an entire book just on that subject alone but you people will have to settle for yet another rambling essay packed with Wiki pulls and Amazon author bios.
Because… lazy writer and all that shit.
For everything and person on this there are dozens more I should have included but didn’t. That being a truth I want to take this moment before we delve into the madness to encourage you to seek them out. I promise if you are a fan of zombies you will not be disappointed.
Enough of the preamble, on to the zombies.
There are hundreds of amazing zombie novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories on the market. The eBook lists are stiff with them… stiff. I was going to do a rundown of my favorite individual books but I realized that I was more influenced by the individual writers as opposed to specific works. That being said my favorite zombie authors het their own section.
However, there is one exception to this decision.
In 1990 I was in the Walden Books (if you remember that chain then welcome to middle age) at the Westland mall when I saw a paperback with an awesome cover. I’d never before that day seen a zombie centric novel, with the exception of the Dawn of the Dead movie adaptation, and the idea of reading zombie fiction sent my dark heart fluttering.
By the way I have a hard back copy of that book… so yeah, I rule.
The Book of the Dead and it’s follow up are still two of my all time favorite books. The stories run from the terrifying to the troubling. The anthologies covered so many different angles on the zombie genre that in a time bereft of new zombie fair it was like rediscovering my passion all over again.
The books, as far as I can determine, are out of print and have both been released in eBook format. I still have my paperback copies but I would pay a premium for audio versions.
You don’t want to know what I would give to contribute to a new Book of the Dead anthology… you really don’t.
Book of the Dead is an anthology of horror stories first published in 1989, edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector. All the stories in the anthology are united by the same premise seen in the apocalyptic films of George A. Romero, depicting a worldwide outbreak of zombies and various reactions to it. The first book was followed three years later by a follow-up, Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2, with a new group of writers tackling the same premise, though the second book put the stories in order according to their imagined chronology of the zombie takeover.
The Book of the Dead compilations are regarded as classic anthologies in the horror and splatter punk genres, featuring a great number of famous names including Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert R. McCammon and foreworded by George A. Romero and Tom Savini. They are likely the first anthologies of zombie-themed tales ever printed, and have been cited as perhaps the first true "zombie literature" as such.
Zombies in the comic book setting were once a thing just for the independents. But with the breakout success of The Walking Dead (discussed below) the mainstream companies took noticed and started producing their own fare.
Some of them great most wretched.
I am only touching on the ones that’ve made a serious impression on me. If you want to find out what others think about the various zombie themed comics just Google the subject and be prepared to want to bleach you brain.
People are assholes.
I still remember the first time I saw an issue of Deadworld. It was 1989 and I was at Mavericks the local comic book and baseball card store I frequented when I live with my grandparents. I was swiping up my usual picks of X-Men titles and The Flash when I saw the cover of Deadworld 9. Done by the amazing Vince Locke it was dark and horrifying.
Full disclosure… it gave me nightmares.
I was not the one who bought it, that would be my unnamed middle brother. If I got my love of horror in general from anyone it would have to be him. But while he bought that issue (actually mom bought it for him) I was the one who read it a hundred times. That might be an exaggeration but not by much.
I didn’t start collecting Deadworld until the 1991 Motor City Comic Con. That year I met one of my artistic heroes Mr. Vince Locke. I was the prototypical Fanboy. I pestered and fawned over him and will say no matter how irritating I had to be he was the nicest most generous guy in the world. That day I bought the entire first run of Deadworld and blew through all of my petty cash.
Deadworld showed me how to blend supernatural elements and the modern world and have the result be amazing. Yeah I know these days with shows like Supernatural and True Blood that seems like a no brainer but back then it had yet to truly be executed in a non tongue in cheek manner.
It is fair to say that after Romero nothing else has influenced my work in the zombie genre more than Deadworld.
I wanted to hate this series.
I didn’t care that Robert Kirkman (The man behind The Walking Dead) had his finger prints all over it, it just sounded dumb as fuck. The idea of a universe where the zombie virus has overrun the Marvel heroes and villains rang every wrong bone in my body. Then one day it was available as a digital download really cheaply, it might have been a freebie but I’m not sure.
It was good.
Marvel Zombies unsettled me, seriously unsettled me. Watching the heroes I’d grownup with devour their friends and loved ones left me feeling off balance and wanting a stiff drink… stiff.
Marvel Zombies is a five-issue limited series published from December 2005 to April 2006 by Marvel Comics. The series was written by Robert Kirkman with art by Sean Phillips and covers by Arthur Suydam. It was the first series in the Marvel Zombies series of related stories. The story is set in an alternate universe where the world's superhero population has been infected with a virus which turned them into zombies. The series was spun out of events of the "Crossover" story-arc of Ultimate Fantastic Four, where the zombie Reed Richards tricked his Ultimate counterpart into opening a portal to the zombie universe.
Of course I have to mention what might be the single most popular non Super Hero comic book of all time. The Walking Dead comic book series revitalized and changed the zombie genre more than anything else since the release of the original Night of the Living Dead. The second golden age of zombies was born in the pages of this humble black and white book.
If it wasn’t for the Walking Dead I never would have written Dead Reign. If I’d never written Dead Reign, despite the awfulness of the ending to the experience, my career never would have gained traction.
The Walking Dead is an ongoing black-and-white American comic book series created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. It chronicles the travels of Rick Grimes, his family and other survivors of a zombie apocalypse.
Roleplaying Games (RPG’s)
Even though I made my writing bone in the RPG universe I have very little experience with the plethora of Zombie Games. That being said there are two exceptions. One of them id strictly based on the experience of reading the books and the other is a bit more… personal.
All Flesh Must Be Eaten is the gold standard of zombie RPG’s. People love this game and from what I’ve read I can’t say I blame them. I’ve never played it myself and I probably won’t but I couldn’t talk about what comes next without mentioning AFMBE.
All Flesh Must Be Eaten or AFMBE (ISBN 1-891153-31-5) is a multiple Origins Award winning and nominated survival horror role-playing game (RPG) produced by Eden Studios, Inc. using the Unisystem game system. AFMBE is derived from the traditional horror movie depictions of zombies who rise from the dead as mindless monsters that consume the living. In addition to producing a revised edition and many RPG supplements, there have been many works of fiction published that take place in one of the game’s many settings.
AFMBE is one of the first RPGs to focus on zombies as the main aspect of survival horror. While other games do have zombies, AFMBE was the first to make them central. AFMBE was also the first new Unisystem game produced by Eden under their exclusive licenses of the Unisystem game.
The main rule book details character creation, skills, qualities (positive characteristics), drawbacks (negative characteristics), zombie creation rules, character archetypes and several campaign settings (called "Deadworlds" in the jargon of the game). The game has a large following and several expansion books.
AFMBE genre books also serve double duty as expansions to the Classic Unisystem rules for various movie, TV and literature genres, such as the Western, pulp fiction, and sci-fi. The Revised Edition also includes an appendix detailing conversions to the d20 System.
Yeah I know those of you familiar with my past were wondering when I would get to talking about Dead Reign in this series of essays. I’m not going to delve very far, if at all, into the history of the title. The below Wiki pull is a more or less accurate if truncated version of what went down.
But I want to put a couple of things out there.
The first, and most important thing, I want everyone to know is the contribution of my writing partner Joshua Sanford. Sanford is one of my oldest and best friends and without him Dead Reign never would have been anything more than a collection of pages of notes in a three ring binder. He created the Reapers, the real hard assed version the kid friendly ones eventually published. He pushed me and is one of the best creative people I have ever worked with.
The second thing I need people to know is that I am still proud of the original manuscript. Even with six years and a mullion more published words behind me I would still prefer my version saw print, flaws and all it was the superior product.
But in the end I wouldn’t have my career if things had gone different.
Dead Reign is a zombie apocalypse role-playing game published by Palladium Books. Originally created as an alternate setting for Beyond the Supernatural, it was put on track to be turned into a stand-alone title after first appearing in Palladium Books' Rifter series. The game's creators, Josh Hilden and Joshua Sanford, wrote a manuscript and turned it in, but during the five weeks between manuscript submission and the book going to the printers, Palladium president and lead game designer Kevin Siembieda rewrote roughly eighty percent of the game and changed its basic premise.
Favorite Zombie Authors
Like I said before I could write an entire book on all of the zombie novels I have loved. Instead of doing that, because hey lazy over here, I am just throwing out the links to my favorite authors working in the genre. For everyone here there are a dozen more I am forgetting these are just the ones currently sticking with me.
The links and pulls are from their Amazon Bios.
Eloise J. Knapp lives in Washington state and never complains about the rain. She recently finished her bachelor's in graphic design with a minor in creative writing at Seattle University. When not writing she enjoys a variety of hobbies, such as yoga, cooking, shooting, and archery.
Knapp's work includes Pulse, The Undead Situation, and The Undead Haze. The final installment of her Cyrus V. Sinclair trilogy is slated for 2015.
Gareth Wood is the author of three books so far, and has no plans to stop writing unless forced to by an apocalypse or an annoying pet. He considers his work so far to be practice for the real work ahead, and hopes to write the definitive work of apocalyptic fiction for the 21st Century.
His books so far include RISE and its sequel AGE OF THE DEAD. The third volume of the series is called DEAD INSIDE, and should be released in March of 2014. All three books are set in Canada after a zombie apocalypse, and began in 2004.
Joe McKinney has been a patrol officer for the San Antonio Police Department, a homicide detective, a disaster mitigation specialist, a patrol commander, and a successful novelist. His books include the four part Dead World series, Quarantined, Inheritance, Lost Girl of the Lake, Crooked House and Dodging Bullets. His short fiction has been collected in The Red Empire and Other Stories and Dating in Dead World and Other Stories. In 2011, McKinney received the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel. For more information go to http://joemckinney.wordpress.com.
Mark Tufo was born in Boston Massachusetts. He attended UMASS Amherst where he obtained a BA and later joined the US Marine Corp. He was stationed in Parris Island SC, Twenty Nine Palms CA and Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. After his tour he went into the Human Resources field with a worldwide financial institution and has gone back to college at CTU to complete his masters.
He has written the Indian Hill trilogy with the first Indian Hill - Encounters being published for the Amazon Kindle in July 2009. He has since written the Zombie Fallout series and is working on a new zombie book.
He lives in Maine with his wife, three kids and two English bulldogs. Visit him at marktufo.com or http://zombiefallout.blogspot.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Tufo/133954330009843 for news on his next two installments of the Indian Hill trilogy and upcoming installments of the Zombie Fallout series.
Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including the As the World Dies zombie trilogy (Tor), as well as independent works such as The Last Bastion of the Living (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog), and other horror novels. She was born and raised a Texan and presently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.
Tim has been writing tales and stories since he could hold a crayon and has read enough books to choke a landfill. Tim has a fascination with all things zombie, a predilection for weird literature, and a deep-seated need to jot words on paper and thrust them at people.
Tim is the the author of 8 novels including the bestselling, AMONG THE LIVING, and the sequel AMONG THE DEAD. His other works include the zombie book BEYOND THE BARRIERS and the deserted island 'zombedy' THE ZOMBIE WILSON DIARIES, and his latest, the Z-RISEN series of military styled zombie books.
Tim resides outside of Seattle where he lives with his wife, 2 children, 3 dogs of various sizes and dispositions, and a near constant supply of overpriced and overcooked coffee beans.
Tim can be found tooling around his website at HTTP://TIMOTHYWLONG.COM for more information on Z-Risen: HTTP://Z-RISEN.COM.
That’s it for this one. Next time we will tackle all the other bits and pieces of zombies in popular culture I’ve loved. It will be the last entry in this series before I do the Max Brooks… no I don’t mean DO Max Brooks!
Or do I?